Three Republican presidential candidates campaigned in Iowa this weekend. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was returning to the campaign trail for the first time after the slayings of nine African Americans in a Charleston church.
“It’s been overwhelming. It’s the best and worst of times,” Graham said during an interview in Marshalltown Saturday. “It’s hard for me how you can go into a church, pray with people for an hour and shoot them. The level of hate is hard to understand.” But
Graham said the reaction of the victims’ families “changed everything.”
“The love and forgiveness they’ve shown was a wake-up call for the whole country. I’ve never seen my state so close together,” Graham said. “…I’ve never seen so much outpouring of just sheer love — joint services of churches I thought would never even talk to each other, much less pray together. It’s been tough. It’s been the hardest week I can ever remember, but people have been so kind all over the country.”
Graham stood with South Carolina’s governor last Monday to signal support for removing the Confederate battle flag that flies from a war memorial on the state capital grounds in South Carolina.
“After this, it’s time to take the flag down,” Graham said, “and if we don’t, we’ll never move forward as a state.”
Graham was in South Carolina Friday, attending a memorial service for one of the shooting victims, when the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Graham argues it would be a mistake for the GOP to press for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, because would be too difficult to get such a measure passed by two-thirds of the members of congress and 34 of the 50 states.
“I think the debate would divide the country. It would not achieve a higher purpose,” Graham said. “…We have to accept thec court’s decision in terms of being the law. The constitutional amendment process is not viable. Protecting religious liberties is where I can to go.”
Graham said “religious people” should not be punished for following the tenants of their faith and he “would not tolerate” having churches, synagogue or mosques punished for not performing same-sex marriages.
“Conversely, gay individuals and gay couples, if I’m president, you’ll be treated friendly,” Graham said. “You’ll have the rights of all us, consistent with religious liberties.”
Graham made his remarks after chatting with a late Saturday afternoon crowd at the Maid-Rite in Marshalltown. He also visited the Linn County Fair and stopped at the Field of Dreams.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz delivered a speech in Des Moines on Saturday, blasting the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. Cruz said it’s wrong to force “Bible-believing Christians to violate their faith.” On Friday, Cruz called for forcing U.S. Supreme Court justices to stand for retention elections.
On Saturday, businessman Donald Trump was in Winterset, visiting the John Wayne Museum and serving as the headliner for a Madison County GOP fundraiser. Trump called the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage “a very, very sad thing.”
(Reporting by Cory Brada, KFJB, Marshalltown; additional reporting and editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)